Friday, January 31, 2014

Slumgullion


The Handcuffs will be headlining a triple bill at the 27 Live club in Evanston tomorrow night. The fun and catchy punk rockers Swimsuit Addition and The Queue, who were moving away from their original British Invasion approach when I saw the at International Pop Overthrow - Chicago a while back, are the other two acts on the bill. The show starts at 9:00 PM.

You too can help fight AIDS. I often come away from watching the Super Bowl with a feeling that the endlessly hyped TV ads weren’t as clever or imaginative as I was led to expect. It’s not as disappointing as when the Bears lost to the Colts in 2007, but it is a letdown. This year, there’s one ad I’m sure will make me happy. U2, in conjunction with (RED), the international charitable organization, is doing a spot to help fight AIDS. Fans can join in by downloading the band’s new song “Invisible” for free on iTunes on February 2nd -3rd. Bank Of America will donate $1 (up to $2,000,000) for each download to help (RED)’s quest to end AIDS.

The second annual Danstock Benefit Showcase to Raise Funds for Melanoma Research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwest University of Northwestern University takes place next Thursday, February 6th at Lincoln Hall. Band Called Catch, American Wolf, Sabers, and DeXter, will be performing. Admission is $20, and there are VIP tickets available for $100.00. 

Singer Lisa Rock will bring her tribute show Close To You: The Music of the Carpenters to Cutting Hall in Palatine on February 19th. Tickets are $30; the 90-minute music starts at 7:30 PM. People looking to have an early dinner before the show can go to the nearby Giannis Cafe and get 10% off their bill by mentioning Close To You. Maybe more of this sort of entertainment venue/restaurant cross pollination could increase the number of visitors to Palatine.

Chicago-based psychedelic rock band Secret Colours has released a second single from its upcoming EP Positive Distractions Part 1. You can find the guitar-driven City Slicker on SoundCloud and the Impose website. 

On February 9th, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles coming to America with Gallery Talks in its Beatles exhibit; screening of the CNN series The Sixties: The British Invasion and The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit in its Foster Theater. The Museum will also display the Rickenbacker guitar John Lennon played on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. 

They’ll also be twisting and shouting about that Beatles Anniversary in Louisville, where 12 cover bands will take part in Abbey Road On The River. Britbeat, The Jukebox, The Rigbys, Nervous Melvin, The Cryers, and Traveling Beatleburys will be some of the bands playing at The February ‘64 Celebration on the weekend of February 7- 9. 

After recording two full CDs and a few singles, the French trio (formerly a quartet) Plastiscines will release Black XS, a 5-song EP of rock covers on February 3rd. Lana Del Rey, Air, and Wham are among the artists getting the Plastiscines treatment.

Mary-Arrchie Theatre kicks off season number 28 on February 4th with the Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment. Rich Cotovsky directs the three-person cast of Jack McCabe, Ed Porter, and Maureen Yasko. The play runs through March 16th.

There’s a record release party for People’s Temple’s Musical Garden (LP/CD) and Radar Eyes “Positive Feedback” 7” single release next Thursday at Bottom Lounge in Chicago. 10:00 PM. Special guest Outer Minds are also performing.

Ellis Clark and Phil Angotti have both had long careers as solo artists and with various bands. They’ve been joining forces on gigs lately, and they’ve recorded a version of The Beatles’ “I Dig A Pony” that can be heard on Breakfast With The Beatles with Terri Hemmert this Sunday morning on WXRT. The duo will be doing a Beatle tribute show at Mayne Stage in Chicago next Saturday, February 8th.

Also at Mayne Stage, Badfinger with Joey Molland has a gig on March 2nd.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

EP Review: Mainland - Shiner


“Savant,” the opening track on Mainland’s new Shiner EP, grabs the listener by both hands and then takes off running. The high-speed guitars and brash vocals call to mind the original punk era of the late 1970s. It’s a coming of age song, delivered from a New York-based quartet that doesn’t look all that old.

Lead vocalist-guitarist Jordan Topf’s voice is perfectly suited for this approach, evoking Supergrass on the title track, which offers another take on growing up. “When I was younger, I would do all the things you like,” Topf notes. “Now I’m older and this feeling isn’t right.” Bassist Alex Pitta provides a strong but playful rhythm, whereas on other songs, he keeps pace with the energetic strumming of Topf and guitarist Corey Mullee.

“Heaven” has a slower, more classic rock feel, as Topf, Pitta, Mullee, and drummer Dylan Longstreet combine for a well-crafted arrangement. “Leave The Lights On” could be the song that garners the most attention for Mainland. With its shimmering guitars, rampaging rhythm section, and Topf’s evocative singing, it would have fit in perfectly on U2’s Boy album.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dum Dum Girls On Letterman/Self-Deportation Wrap Party


Wonder if they’ll do any Dum Human Tricks. Photo from The Dum Dum  Girls Facebook page.

A couple of things going on this week.

The Dum Dum Girls, who released their latest CD, Too True yesterday, will be performing on The Late Show With David Letterman tomorrow (Thursday) night. The band, led by singer-guitarist Dee Dee Penny, kicks off its American tour at the Backstage Bar in Las Vegas on March 8th, and will be appearing at the Coachella Festival in April. The Dum Dum Girls have a gig scheduled at The Empty Bottle in Chicago on March 31st.

Writer/performer/filmmaker Lance Eliot Adams and director Eugene S. Park are hosting a Wrap Party Open House for their short film Self-Deportation from 6:00 to 10:00 PM this Friday night at Space 1858. Self-Deportation, which was directed by Park and co-produced by Adams and Cynthia Bond, is the tale of an Asian-American reacting to racism in American society. The event will allow visitors to interact with sets Park and Brittney Williams designed for the film, and watch cast members reenact scenes. Music will be provided by Ho Etsu Taiko, and there will be beer, wine, snacks. Space 1858 is located at 1858 W. Grand in Chicago.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

You Don’t Need To Designate Or To Emigrate Before You Can See This


Last Sunday morning, while cooking eggs and occasionally peeking out the kitchen window to watch birds eating from their newly stocked feeders, I listened to Terri Hemmert’s Breakfast With The Beatles show on WXRT. She mentioned a tribute to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album coming up this Thursday. Professor Moptop, who contributes an informative study of a different Beatles song to her show each week, is going to be there, offering what he calls ‘tea and sympathy.’ At a time when there are so many events going on to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles first coming to America (not that I’m complaining), it’s nice to see George get an appreciative nod for his solo work.

John’s People, a self-described “high concept garage band,” will recreate the entire three-record set on Thursday at the Wire rock club in Berwyn. A collection of 12 musicians, led by guitarist-vocalist John San Juan, will be on hand to make sure All Things Must Pass passes muster. They come from the bands Plush, Chamber Strings, Hushdrops, Expo ‘76, and Veruca Salt, so this definitely looks promising. Tickets are $10, and the tribute music starts at 8:00PM. John’s People, which apparently has a rotating membership, has previously tackled Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Slumgullion


The Revo Lution Theatre Company’s Staged Reading Series will present Kevin Wiczer’s Deranged Inhabitants tomorrow night at the Burton Place Bar and Grill at 1447 N. Wells Street in Chicago. Steve Carter Ruppel directs cast members Jonatham Coffin, Erin Heidt Makowski, Jeff Botelhos, Iena Arkelious, and Kevin Higginbotham in this tale of a man who lives within the walls of his home until an Avon Lady comes calling. The show starts at 6:00 PM.

Sci-fi rockers Tomorrow The Moon, featuring Bad Examples guitarist Steve Gerlach, are among the four bands performing next Thursday, January 30th at The Beat Kitchen on Chicago’s north side. Check out this artful and eye-popping video for “He Saw Red. Frosting, who like Tomorrow The Moon have had two CDs favorably reviewed here on BHT, are also on the bill, along with The Dead Woods and Katasstrofist. The music starts at 8:00 PM.

Singer-guitarist Jeff Lescher from the critically acclaimed power pop band Green is inviting about 40 fans to join him in his living room for a solo show in early February. Lescher lives in Milwaukee. 

Take A Walk On The Charitable Side. The Empty Bottle in Chicago will be the scene of Perfect Day,  a Lou Reed tribute show to benefit Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, on Sunday, March 2nd. The participating bands are Supercell Mothership, Energy Gown, Phil Angotti And Friends, The Red Plastic Buddha, Tangleweed, Puritan Pine, Time Flower, and The Luck Of Eden Hall. Tickets are $10, and the tribute kicks off at 7:00 PM.

And in other Luck Of Eden Hall news: Butterfly Revolutions Volume 1 and 2, both of which did well on the Broken Hearted Toy 2011 and 2012 Favorite Releases lists respectively, are now available as a double LP on 180 gram colored vinyl. If you’ve heard this band’s authentic take on 1960s mind-bending psychedelic rock, you’ll agree it makes sense to create a Butterfly Revolutions Volume 1 and  2 vinyl set. It can be ordered at Norman Records, Clear Spot and other sites. 

Fruits de Mer, the U.K. all-vinyl indie label that released the fantastic Hollies tribute album, Re-Evolution, made an intriguing announcement on Facebook recently. It’s considering an American multi-act tour called Crabstock USA The Fruits de Mer Records Festival of Psychedelia. Hopefully, more details will be released soon.

As a collector of pop culture memorabilia, I’ve often wondered why female action figures are rendered far less realistically than their male counterparts. A recent post on the Doctor Who Facebook page displaying a new line of figures from the sci-fi series, revealed I’m not the only one who feels this way. The funniest comments regarded the Clara Oswald figure, which in no way resembles Jenna Coleman, the enchanting actress who portrays her. “Those are some of the worst figures I have ever seen,” read one comment.  Here are a few other observations: “Clara looks like a potato.” “Wow, they managed to make Clara ugly.” “Uh, why does the Clara figurine have MOFFATS FACE?” Writer/producer Steven Moffat occasionally gets flack for the changes he’s brought to Doctor Who, but I don’t think he’s responsible for these action figures.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

All-Stars Recreate Revolver And Abbey Road For Charities


In a year already overflowing with tributes to The Beatles, here’s another worthy entry. If I lived in Los Angeles, I know I would be at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Saturday, March 1st for Wild Honey Presents: The Beatles’ Revolver & Abbey Road to Benefit the Autism Think Tank and the Childrens Music Fund. The Wild Honey Orchestra is comprised of drummer Jim Laspesa; bassist Derrick Anderson; guitarists Rob Laufer, Rusty Squeezebox, and Andrew Sandoval; keyboards players Darian Sahanaja and Willie Aron; percussionist Nelson Bragg; horn players Probyn Gregory and Sarah Kramer; trumpet player Dan Clucas; sax players Paul Pate and Seung Park; and trombone player Masha Petrowizky. Power pop fans will no doubt recognize some familiar names among those players, and Wild Honey has lined up an impressive collection of guest vocalists to help recreate the two Beatles LPs. You might even call them Broken Hearted Toy all-stars if this blog was involved with the show.

The list includes The Bangles; Jody Stephens of Big Star; Matthew Sweet; Chris Stamey of The dB’s; guitarist Laurence Juber, formerly with Wings; Colin Hay from Men at Work; The Muffs; Evie Sands; Susan Cowsill, who recently completed a CD with Bangle Vicki Peterson as The Psycho Sisters, and Bob Cowsill; Louise Goffin; David Marks from The Beach Boys; Keith Allison; Tim Piper and Cosmo Topper from Just Imagine; Christine Collister; John Wicks from The Records, and a new project he’s working on with Bangle Debbi Peterson; Tommy Keene; Michael Quercio of The Three O’Clock; Steve Barton of Translator; Andrew Sandoval; Mike Viola; John Easdale of Dramarama; Steve Stanley; Bill Berry from R.E.M.; Kristian Hoffman; and Morty Coyle. 

Ticket prices range from $25 to $100, which is certainly reasonable considering the talent involved. Plus, the money is going toward two worthy causes, the Autism Think Tank and the Children's Music Fund.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Friday On My Mind


Ready for her moment in the limelight. Photo from Dolly Varden’s Facebook page.

Here are a few things going on tomorrow night in the Chicago area.

When Dolly Varden performs as part of a double bill tomorrow night at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn, there will be something about the show that even long-time fans haven’t seen before. The alt rock/Country and Western band has always been known for the exquisite harmonies of vocalist-guitarist Steve Dawson and his wife, singer-guitarist Diane Christiansen. Tomorrow, Christiansen will get extended time front and center.

“We’ve talked about doing a show like this for a long time,” Dawson notes on the Dolly Varden website. Some of the songs she’ll sing lead on will be her own compositions, while others will be ones penned by Dawson. “We’re going to stack a bunch of them together and give Diane the spotlight.” Dawson promises he’ll be doing his share of lead vocals too, and he plans to join singer-guitarist Phil Angotti (the other half of the double bill) for a few tunes between the sets.

In addition to performing with Dolly Varden, Diane Christiansen is an artist who frequently exhibits her work at events in the Chicago area.

A fourth band has been added to tomorrow’s American/indie rock lineup at Reggie’s in the south Loop. The schedule is now as follows: The Abbeys at 8:00 PM; Jukebox Casanova at 9:00 PM; The Harmaleighs at 10:00 PM; and The Papers at 11:00 PM. Mike Cohen of The Abbeys promises he’ll have copies of the band’s Please File Under: Twang for sale. That’s the CD that came in at Number 17 on the Broken Hearted Toy Favorite Releases Of 2013 list.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

DVD Review: Good Ol’ Freda


I had the honor of meeting Freda Kelly at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago, and like pretty much everyone else who has encountered this woman, found her entirely charming. She’ll be at the Fest For Beatles Fan - New York in February.

Freda Kelly’s story is a prime example of how life can sometimes trump anything created by a novelist or screenwriter. Picked by Brian Epstein from a multitude of love-struck teenage girls who hung out at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, she became his full-time employee and secretary of the Official Beatles Fan Club. For 11 years, Kelly had a first-hand look at the rise and fall of the most important rock band in history. How well she responded to that amazing opportunity is the subject of the new documentary Good Ol’ Freda.

The friendly and familiar tone of the title fits this woman perfectly. Kelly’s easy-going manner enabled her to weather Epstein’s notoriously volatile moods, connect with fans on a truly emotional level, and become like one of the family to The Beatles and their parents. But as the band became overwhelmingly popular and Epstein found it necessary to bring in more young women to help open the mail, it was Kelly who made sure the work didn’t dissolve into a gigglefest. And she wasn’t above sacking anyone who proved untrustworthy.

Good Ol’ Freda uses archival film and photos of The Beatles’ early days, along with a series of interviews with Kelly at home and while visiting noteworthy sites like the Empire Theatre in Liverpool. There is also sporadic commentary from a few of her contemporaries on how dedicated she was to her work and The Beatles. Kelly’s sense of discretion and loyalty is a running theme throughout Good Ol’ Freda. She could have made a fortune by writing a tell-all account of the Fab Four’s inner circle, but has remained out of the limelight for decades instead.

On a few occasions when she’s asked to comment on a delicate matter in the documentary, she smiles coyly and insists some things should remain secret. Most of her recollections are upbeat; like how much John, Paul, George, and Ringo enjoyed signing autographs and were willing to accommodate even the more unusual requests from fans.

“Nothing was a problem,” Kelly recalls of the lads’ genial attitude.

Kelly initially used her home address to receive fan mail until her father objected. She visited Starr’s mother once a week for tea, and got dancing tips from Harrison’s father. She was also along for the ride when The Beatles were devastated by the death of Epstein, and when the band began splitting apart. For the first time in her career, she felt the need to shade the truth, telling members of the media that The Beatles were doing fine. Still, she’s come away with a deep respect for the four musicians who weren’t much older than her when she first met them at The Cavern. 

“I’m very proud that I worked for them,” Kelly states at the end of Good Ol’ Freda

Brian Epstein received a long overdue induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this year. It’s often been said that he saw something in the young Beatles that so many other people in the music industry had missed. Apparently, he knew something about hiring secretaries as well. 

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vintage Publication Spotlight: The Face


Although I never sported a hairstyle inspired by A Flock Of Seagulls or wore outfits like the guys in Duran Duran, I immediately embraced New Wave music and have liked it ever since. It was easy to feel at least a certain amount of alternative cred browsing through rows of 45 records at Wax Trax! on Lincoln Avenue. The store also had a good selection of magazines and newspapers from around the U.S. and England.

The London-based publication The Face, which presumably took its name from Mod slang for a cool trendsetter, covered cutting-edge music, film, fashion, and politics. The front cover of this April, 1982 issue featured the U.K. ska band Fun Boy Three working out at a gym, along with a member of Bananarama. The two acts had recently joined forces for an enticing and rhythmic take on the 1960s song “Really Saying Something” by the Velvelettes.

There were also articles about Madness, reflecting on their newly acquired maturity; a 40-year old Lou Reed, who was promoting his new LP The Blue Mask; and inexplicably, Pia Zadora, talking about being rich and famous. Neil Norman’s Film Buff column mentioned Mad Max 2, Time Bandits, and Missing, along with “a premature farewell to actor John Belushi.” Singles reviewer Fiona Russell Powell noted, “ABC’s ‘Poison Arrow’ is easily the best song in the charts right now,” and Albums reviewer Ian Birch panned Spandau Ballet’s Diamond and Robert Palmer’s Maybe It’s Live. He liked Haircut One Hundred’s Pelican West, and hailed Fun Boy Three’s self-titled effort as “a peculiarly addictive debut.”

Publisher/Editor Nick Logan and designer Neville Brody favored a mostly black and white look for The Face’s graphics, with occasional full-color photos. This issue cast a spotlight on African and Bolshevik fashions, and there was an article about collecting vintage toys. Political columnist Julie Burchill, who judging from the Letters column, was no stranger to controversy, traveled back to The House Committee On Un-American Activities battle with Hollywood’s elite.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

45 RPM Memories: Little Steven and the Disciples Of Soul - “Forever”

Long before Little Steven Van Zandt began hosting Underground Garage, the world’s coolest syndicated radio show or captured cable TV viewers’ hearts as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, he recorded the single “Forever” with The Disciples Of Soul. It’s from the LP Men Without Women. I’m pretty sure I saw the video for this song before I heard it on the radio. It mixes images of Van Zandt and his band performing onstage with footage of him tooling around the big city dressed in his biker chic. All I know for sure is that I bought the 45 back in 1982 and immediately included it on one of my mixed tapes.

Van Zandt, a long-time cohort of Bruce Springsteen, drew heavily on the Motown sound for this song about a man’s emotional plea to the woman he loves. Backed by energetic horns and guitars, he mixes a tough guy image (“I’ve been fighting my whole life”) with complete vulnerability (“If I can’t have you I don’t want no one at all”). The guy expects a lot from this woman, asking, “If the world falls apart could you keep it together?” and expecting her to “pick up the pieces if I stumble and fall.” Later, looking back on all hes strived for in life, Van Zandt’s character concludes, “If I can’t have you to hold me, girl/All my work’s in vain.”

Van Zandt and the Disciples Of Souls went even further back than Motown for the spirited B-Side (also from Men Without Women); a rock and roll-infused take on the Duke Ellington classic, “Caravan.”

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Slumgullion


Gotta love this poster from Ellis Clark's Facebook page.

Several bands in Peoria will gather together on February 9th for It Was 50 Years Ago Today Sgt. Pepper Taught The Band To Play - A Celebration Of The Beatles Debut In America.  Organizer/musician Craig Moore promises, “surprise performances, orchestrated Beatles material you rarely hear performed live, videos, special guests, and more.” The musicians will be donating their time so that proceeds can go to charities like Illinois Dream Factory, which helps chronically ill children, St. Jude’s Hospital, and the Washington Illinois High School Tornado Relief Fund. It Was 50, etc will take place at 8102 N.University in Peoria. Moore suggests listening to Peoria station WWCT - FM 99.9 throughout January for details.

Phil Angotti and Ellis Clark will also be marking the 50 Anniversary of The Beatles coming to America, with their Magical Mystery Tour Orchestra at Mayne Stage on Chicago’s north side on February 8th. Each singer-songwriter will do a set of his original material, and then Angotti and Clark will combine forces on a set of Beatles songs, backed by a full band. Tickets are $7.

In the meantime, Angotti has a show with Steve Dawson of Dolly Varden next Friday, January 24th at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.

Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis of The Abbeys will be doing a 45-minute acoustic set (possibly joined by their bassist Carl Lubicz) as part of an Americana/Indie showcase next Friday at Reggie’s Music Joint on State Street. The Harmaleighs and Jukebox Casanova are also on the bill. The new full lineup for The Abbeys will make its debut at Redline Tap on February 15th. 

There’s going to be an event called Big Silly Variety Show & Party next Saturday, January 25th at the Park Ridge VFW Hall, but other than one of the acts being named Crapalanche, I don’t see anything silly about it. Still, you could definitely party with Crapalanche, along with Paul Coady And The Edsel Bros., The Tulips, Dan Connolly, Go Time!, Robin And Jerry Bienemann, Wango City, and singer-guitarist Kent Rose. The Park Ridge VFW Hall is located at 10 Higgins Road, and the silliness starts at 7:00PM.

Chicago Comic And Entertainment Expo returns to McCormick Place on the weekend of April 25-27, but artists and people who dig wearing super hero costumes can get an early start next Thursday, January 23rd. That’s when C2E2 will present the first installment of Heroes & Villains at Lincoln Tap Room. Comic guests Jenny Frison, Mike Norton, and Tim Seeley will be providing prizes for a hero-themed drawing competition.

Feathers have followed up their debut If All Here Now with a four-song EP titled Only One. It features two new tracks,“Wild Love and Only One along with a pair of remixed songs from their first release. The Austin, Texas-based band is currently on tour with Depeche Mode in Europe.

Chicago’s inventive techno band Save The Clocktower will be performing an all-ages show with Bad Veins at Beat Kitchen next Saturday, January 25th. They'll also be at Durty Nellie’s in my hometown of Palatine on February 27th and at The Hideout in Chicago on February 28th.

These Boots Are Made For Playing “Barracuda.” If I had enough room in my closet-sized media room, and more spending cash, I would bid on eBay for Nancy Wilson from Heart’s boots. It’s part of the 6th Annual Kick Up Your Heels Fundraiser for the Lancaster Opera House. The current high bid is $1,000.  

If Only I Could Remember My Nickname. David Crosby has sold out his two upcoming gigs at City Winery in Chicago, and has a new CD titled Croz on the way. If you’ve read Graham Nash’s new autobiography Wild Tales, you might have noticed that Nash usually refers to his buddy and band mate as ‘Croz’ when he’s writing about something positive, and as ‘Crosby’ when he’s describing bad behavior. Long live ‘Croz’!

Power pop aficionado and Secret Weapon podcast creator “Boris” Boden has a guest post on the Meanwhile Back In Peoria blog, where he talks about Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee Internet series, and posts some artful photos of snow-flected vintage cars.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Review, Part Three: Graham Nash - Wild Tales - A Rock And Roll Life


After an emotionally charged departure from The Hollies, Graham Nash found his new band mates more receptive to the ambitious direction he wanted to pursue with his music. But in David Crosby and Stephen Stills, he had aligned himself with two of rock and roll’s more volatile personalities. After Neil Young was added to the mix, the chances of a recording session or live performance going off the rails became even greater. Nash writes about a time when he attempted to restore peace during the recording of the Deja Vu album, and wound up weeping instead.

“I was twenty-seven years old. I was supposed to be a man, and here I was crying my eyes out because we were losing it—whatever it was.”

It’s common knowledge that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had their quarrels, but some of the incidents (and downright sabotage) Nash describes makes it hard to conceive of how these guys could go on working together. Plus, Crosby’s hellish descent into cocaine addiction left the entire band vulnerable musically and legally.

Throughout Wild Tales, Nash emphasizes his passion for creating music, so we believe him when says the bond he felt with Crosby, Stills, and Young (he offers examples of each of their incredible talent and inventiveness) was strong enough to help weather the persistent storms. An early agreement that each member would be free to pursue solo and side projects also no doubt helped ease the tension. Nash has been quoted as saying a similar arrangement probably would have saved The Beatles.

Recent years have seen Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young overcome their competing egos on stage; Crosby clean up his act; and Nash reaffirm his friendship with Allan Clarke of The Hollies. Nash also has a successful career in photography and treasures spending time with his wife and family. After all the Wild Tales, he’s probably thrilled to find things running so smoothly.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review, Part Two: Graham Nash - Wild Tales - A Rock And Roll Life


One of the many lasting images Graham Nash creates in his autobiography Wild Tales is of him singing with his father as the two of them walk together through their blighted Salford neighborhood in England. Even at that young age, he was fascinated with creating harmonies. It was a gift that would serve Nash well in making friends, particularly a classmate named Allan Clarke. Once the two lads discovered how well their voices blended together, they started performing at pubs and social functions. They were amazed the first time they heard an Everly Brothers song, and immediately decided to model their singing after those exquisite Phil and Don harmonies. Later, when Nash and Clarke formed The Hollies, they would establish a vocal sound that would help land them in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame by including guitarist-vocalist Tony Hicks.

Hollies fans who’ve always felt the band has been short-changed in the media will find a lot to like in Wild Tales. In addition to honoring his lifelong bond to Clarke, Nash praises Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott as first-rate musicians. He credits Hicks with coming up with the banjo riff on “Stop Stop Stop” that, “imitated a balalaika and gave the record its inimitable sound. He’d done the same magic for ‘Look Through Any Window and ‘Bus Stop’ with those incredible guitar riffs at the beginning of each.” By the mid-1960s, The Hollies were intent on not only writing all their own music, but to move beyond the standard boy-meets-girl love songs.

Eventually though, Nash felt that he and The Hollies were no longer on the same page, creatively or in terms of social and political awareness. After his ambitious “King Midas In Reverse” failed to chart as well as hoped, he sensed that the other band members no longer trusted his instincts. They rejected “Marrakesh Express” and other songs he brought in for consideration. This was right around the time he met David Crosby and Stephen Stills in the U.S., who would soon steal him away for a new band they were putting together.      

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Review, Part One: Graham Nash - Wild Tales - A Rock And Roll Life


In Wild Tales, Graham Nash doesn’t waste time in getting to the big bang event most readers will be eager to hear about: His first encounter with David Crosby and Stephen Stills. After that opening chapter, Nash travels back to his childhood to begin this entertaining autobiography. It’s not a journey delivered in strict chronological order; he sometimes follows a narrative thread over the course of a few years before slipping back again to pick up another tale. Nash employs an easy-going writing style that places the reader on a bar stool beside him, most likely in an English pub. It’s a buddy-to-buddy account, with a fair amount of nudge-nudge, wink-wink material.

Nash must have known that at least some of his recollections would cast him in an unfavorable light. After all, he spent a good portion of his musical career chasing mini-skirts and consuming (although never becoming addicted to) illegal drugs. He doesn’t excuse or condemn this past behavior; Wild Tales is filled with let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may observations of an era of free love and mind-altering experimentation. As he simply states in the Acknowledgments, “This is how I remember it.” Later in the book, he notes the disastrous effect that too much cocaine use had on the ability of Crosby, Stills and Nash to record or perform music. He also settles down with Susan Sennett, who becomes the love of his life.

Throughout Wild Tales, Nash’s core values come across loud and clear; his obsession with harmony singing, his devotion to friends, his strong bond with his parents, and a passion for social justice. Like George Harrison and John Lennon, he became one of the pioneers of using music to reach out to others in need, whether it be in the form of writing a new song, or putting together benefit concerts.            

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

And Another Thing. . .


Portrait of the man who made it possible for me to perform skit comedy for over 20 years. 
Happy Birthday, Rich Cotovsky. (Photo from his Facebook page.)

A few more bits from the world of entertainment.

Happy Birthday to Rich Cotovsky, Artistic Director of the Mary-Arrchie Theatre; founder of the annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival; Abbie Hoffman impersonator; director; actor; and Chicago legend. Famous In The Future, the comedy group I performed with for 20 years, could not have existed without him. I’m not sure he would want to take responsibility for that, but I express my thanks to him anyway. It’s impossible to count the hours of fun I’ve had at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre over the years.

Fest For Beatles Fans did a post on Facebook yesterday stating there’s a rumor going ‘round that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will perform together on the Late Show With David Letterman Show at some point in early February. Letterman’s nightly program is taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater, the place where The Beatles made their monumental first impression on American TV viewers 50 years ago.

As mentioned earlier here before on BHT, The Smithereens will be recreating The Beatles’ February 11th, 1964 Washington, D.C. concert as part of the Fest For Beatles Fans celebration in New York. According to a recent Facebook post from guitarist-vocalist Jim Babjack, the band plans to release a recording of their performance of The Beatles’ concert event. It will have 12 songs, including “Roll Over Beethoven,” “All My Loving,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Babjak promises information on how to order a copy will be coming soon.

I haven’t been able to find anything official on this, but supporters of WXRT DJ Tom Marker are proclaiming on his Facebook page that he’s been reinstated as an air personality on the station. If that’s the case, then congratulations to all those who rose up in anger when he was let go. Marker’s followers extend beyond the rock and roll scene because of his decades of supporting blues music in Chicago. One thing is for sure; Marker will host his annual Blues Breakers Blues Of The Year this Monday night on WXRT at 9:00 PM.

The Walker Brigade, a punk rock covers band that includes Jeff Charreaux from Ultraviolet Eye, will be performing next Friday, January 17th at 321 Lounge in Los Angeles, along with The Grrrls and Rachel Goodrich. When I reviewed Ms. Goodrich’s self-titled CD a few years back, I noted that, “At a time when quirky singer-songwriters are as common as snowflakes in a blizzard, Rachel Goodrich still stands out” and concurred with a press release description of her music as “vaudeville-inspired indie pop.” 

The second annual Danstock Benefit Showcase to Raise Funds for Melanoma Research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwest University of Northwestern University will be held on Thursday, February 6th at Lincoln Hall on Chicago’s north side. Planning for the event is still underway, but Band Called Catch, American Wolf, and DeXter, have already signed up to perform. Danstock came about last year when musician/producer Dan Stock decided to do something to help victims of the disease that was on the verge of taking his life. The benefit now lives on in his honor. The goal for the 2014 Danstock is to raise $40,000. Admission is $20, and there are VIP tickets available for $100.00. 

And finally, a song to a certain New Zealand teenage singer, with apologies to Janis Joplin:

Oh Lorde, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz
You’ve scored some hit singles and made famous friends
You’re so very young, hoping success never ends
Oh Lorde, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz

Oh Lorde, won’t you buy me a plasma TV
You’re just so much nicer than that nut Miley
I’d love to watch programs all day in HD
Oh Lorde, won’t you buy me a plasma TV

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Slimgullion


It’s been a hectic week, so unfortunately, there’s not much in the Slumgullion pot this time around.

First, best wishes to singer-guitarist Vicki Peterson of The Bangles on her 25th birthday.

Chicago-based psychedelic rockers Secret Colours have two EPs coming out in the first half of 2014: The digital release of Positive Distractions Part I will be on February 4th, and Part II will be digitally released on April 29th. Both parts will be available on the same slab of vinyl on April 29th. Secret Colours have created a fun retro-tech video for “It Can’t Be Simple,” one of the songs from Positive Distractions Part I.

WXRT air personality Richard Milne will present The Anesthetic Best of 13 on the station this Sunday night from 7:00 to 8:00PM. Milne has been doing Local Anesthetic for several years, and it’s a great way to keep up with the latest bands in Chicago.

It’s All-Right To Have A Good Time - The Story Of Curtis Mayfield has been extended through March 30th at the Black Ensemble Theater on Chicago’s north side. The critically acclaimed musical bio is now running along side Chicago’s Golden Soul, which also features the music of Mayfield, along with Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Tyrone Davis, and other R & B stars who came up through the Windy City.

If I could carry a tune, I’d go there and sing “Paperback Writer.” As noted in Thursday’s Chicago Sun-Times, The Harold Washington Library has a 50th anniversary of The Beatles coming to America karaoke bash scheduled for 12:15 on Friday, January 24th. The library is located at 400 S. State. People interested in taking part can call 312-747-4850 for more information.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hear! Here!


I just finished reading Graham Nash’s autobiography Wild Tales. While he understandably spends the majority of his time spinning tales of his days with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, there’s a wealth of inside information and anecdotes to please an avid Hollies fan like myself. Reading Nash’s recollections of those early days with The Hollies took me back to the Christmas of 1966, when I received the Hear! Here! LP as an added bonus to the “Stop Stop Stop” single I had asked for from one of my older brothers. The joy of discovering those ringing guitars and spirited harmonies would stick with me for a lifetime.

It wasn’t their debut, but it’s likely that Hear! Here! was the first Hollies album for a lot of Americans since it featured the hit single “Look Through Any Window.” If so, then it served as an energetic introduction. The Hollies romped through covers of classic R&B and rock songs like “You Must Believe Me,” “Down The Line,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” and “Mickey’s Monkey.”

Even more impressive was that Nash, lead vocalist Allan Clarke, and guitarist Tony Hicks had begun to compose their own material. Rollicking songs like “Put Yourself In My Place,” “When I Come Home To You,” and “I’ve Been Wrong” (later recorded by The Everly Brothers), along with the melancholy ballad “So Lonely,” clearly indicated that The Hollies were well on their way to becoming one of the British Invasion’s most influential acts.

I’m hoping to post a review of Wild Tales here on Broken Hearted Toy some time next week. 
  

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